As a parent, I've been subjected to all manner of terrible children's entertainment. Never in all of that time though has either one of my daughters turned to me five minutes into the movie and said the following statement: "Dad, is this the movie?" Until tonight. Clementine looked at me and said that in the most sincere manner imaginable, sending me into a bout of hysterics. That statement, made by a six year old girl (one who's seen her fair share of movies, mind you) sums up the entire problem with The Oogieloves. It just doesn't look, sound or feel like a movie.
Goobie, Zoozie & Toofie are The Oogieloves, a rotund trio of felt characters that speak without moving their mouths. It's off-putting at best and god damned nightmare inducing at worst. They live in a house with their friends Schluufy, a drowsy pillow, Windy Window, a window with a woman's face & curtains for hair, Ruffy, a giant felt fish, and J. Edgar, a vacuum. Yeah, the vacuum's name is J. Edgar, and don't try looking for a joke in there somewhere, it's not there, I tried. So, it's Schluufy's birthday and J. Edgar bought five magical golden balloons for her, but let go of them when he was accosted by some woodland creatures on his way home. I think anyway, I'm not entirely sure if that's what happened, but taxidermic squirrels & chipmunks were on screen at the time, and I think they had something to do with him losing the balloons.
So anyway, The Oogieloves set out on a, you guessed it, adventure to reacquire the five magical balloons. The balloons have made their way to some of your childrens' favorite celebrities, all of whom contribute a musical number to the film. You're encouraged to sing along, but the lyrics are not on screen, so good luck. First up is Cloris Leachman as Dotty Rounder who lives in a treehouse with her granddaughter Jubilee Rounder. Then it's time for a trip to the diner of Milky Marvin (Chazz Palminteri), where Ruffy wins balloon number 2 in a milkshake drinking contest. I'm not sure why I feel the need to bring this up, but in close-up, you could see Palminteri's hearing aid. It just made me sad more than anything else, I guess that's why I mention it.
The next balloon is in the possession of Rosalie Rosebud (Toni Braxton) who is about to embark on a world tour. The Oogieloves must convince her to give up her balloon before leaving for her tour by playing in her band, I think. They sing a song about sneezing and coughing that made me want to claw my eyes out. She wears an obscenely low-cut dress, so there's that I guess.
Balloon four is with my favorite character, hands down. Bobby Wobbly (Cary Elwes) is a bubble loving cowboy who's bow-legged gait causes him to wobble around and generally look like he has to take a monster dump. I'm also relatively certain that all of his dialogue was done in ADR. They sing and dance about wobbling & bubbles, but both the voice, costume and general appearance of this character is so oddly out of place in the film, it actually stands out as the film's high point. It's the sort of thing that I can most readily point at as being wrong with the entire endeavor: familiar concepts (cowboy, bubbles), misguided execution.
The last balloon is attached to a windmill near the giant sombrero home of Lola (Jaime Pressly) & Lero Sombrero (Christopher Lloyd). Lloyd is no stranger to shitty kids movies having been in Santa Buddies & Fly Me to the Moon 3D, but this is a new low even for him. Mercifully, he doesn't speak at all, and when he dances, the action is sped up a la Benny Hill to make him look like a sexy flamenco dancer. Yakety Sax may have made the scene better, but nobody involved in this film has a sense of irony.
The whole conceit of the film is that it's supposed to be an interactive movie experience, where the children are encouraged to get up, dance, shake & sing along with the action on screen. The fact that anyone thought this was revolutionary clearly has no children. Virtually every television show in the post Dora The Explorer world uses this conceit, encouraging children to shout out answers at the screen. My children are both fairly active kids, but didn't participate in any of the on-screen festivities. Something tells me that even in a "packed" theater, they wouldn't have either, but who knows?
I suppose it seems like a radical notion to someone billing himself as "Marketing Visionary" Kenn Viselman, but it's not. Every movie I've taken my kids to has been enough to hold their attention for ninety or so minutes without making them feel like they have to run around or yell at the screen like young ruffians who can't control themselves. Perhaps the very young children, say, under 4, would love this conceit, but I think it would have to be for characters they already know and trust.
This film isn't a colossal disaster, but it's mind-numbingly dumb. It's not terrible, but it's a ridiculously failed experiment. Hopefully something this lame is a one-off deal, and thankfully it's failure at the box office has all but ensured that's what this is. My daughters are also the type to laugh a lot during movies, but I don't think this movie made them laugh once. Like I said, there's probably an audience for this kind of thing, but, and I don't want to be mean here, it would take some children with extremely non-discerning taste to go for ninety minutes of this schlock.
With all of the quality children's entertainment in the marketplace, you've got to distinguish yourself on quality more than anything else. Sure, my kids love a lot of crap, but the films that they ask to watch most often are typically ones of quality (The Wizard of Oz, Ratatouille, Coraline, etc.) Films like The Oogieloves are a subpar distraction, but destined to be remembered more for what they failed to do than for what they were about. I guarantee my kids have already forgotten all about it.
[Pictures via Rotten Tomatoes]